“God is never late, but He is rarely early!”
One of the most popular phrases spoken in ‘Christianese’ has to be the phrase, “God is never late! He always arrives right on time.” Maybe you have heard it like this, “God is never late, but He is rarely early!” No doubt these encouragements are spoken to motivate, but they are simply not true. Jesus shows up late from time to time. Look no further than the story of Lazarus in John 11 and it is pretty obvious. He was late. It may be tough to admit, but the same is true in our personal lives. Sometimes the prayer isn’t answered. Divorce happens, death happens, <insert traumatic event here> happens. Sometimes these events are surprises, and other times they occur after a season of praying and waiting on Jesus to show up.
The story of Lazarus may be the most popular example of Jesus missing his appointment, but it is certainly not the only one. Another story, found in Matthew 25, provides an incredible window into the inner-workings of the Kingdom, and how we should react when Jesus simply doesn’t show.
Jesus tells the story found in Matthew chapter 25, verses 1-13.
These parables are grouped together and were told as a continuous answer to the disciples who have asked about how to recognize things that were to come in the future. There are many rich theological conclusions that can be reached throughout these parables, and there are principles that can be found and applied to every-day life, a true glimpse into how His Kingdom works.
The parable is about ten virgins who go out to await the bridegroom. In this parable, Jesus represents the bridegroom, and the virgins represent humanity. The story goes that there were five foolish and five wise virgins. Each took lamps filled with oil, but only the wise took extra oil in jars. The bridegroom, “Took a long time in coming.” (v.5) In other words, He was late. The next verse says he showed up at midnight, a time undoubtedly chosen to exaggerate the lateness of the bridegroom.
The Bible says that all ten virgins had fallen asleep, but they woke up upon the arrival of the bridegroom. When He did finally show, it was time to light their lamps and accompany Him to the party. The foolish virgins oil had run out and they asked for some of the oil from the wise. They refused knowing there wouldn’t be enough for both them and their foolish friends. Only the wise were allowed to go into the feast. The foolish that had no more oil were not allowed to go in.
The bridegroom (Jesus) was supposed to show at a certain time, and the virgins (us) had gone out to meet Him, expecting Him to arrive at the time He was supposed to.
He didn’t show up. There were some who had only brought enough oil to last during a window of time when He was expected to arrive, basically saying with their actions, He will show up at this time or else He is not coming. Or maybe, if He doesn’t show when I am expecting Him, He is not worth waiting for.
There were others who were expecting Him to show at the appointed time. But even when He didn’t, they were prepared. They knew that even if He didn’t arrive when they thought He had to arrive, He was going to show up eventually. They knew the bridegroom would not just leave them out there in the dark, waiting forever. He had to show up sooner or later, and when He did arrive, they knew that the party would be worth the long wait in the darkness.
To all those who are waiting on Jesus to show up in whatever darkness you find yourself, bring enough “oil.”
The oil is our hope in Him. It is knowing that our bridegroom is on the way. Despite others who may doubt His eventual arrival, your continued belief in His yet unseen faithfulness is the oil you bring. Even if it is dark and you know good and well you are sleepy and tired of waiting, He will come. Our bridegroom always shows up. He is not confined to our definition of late. Instead, He is longing to bring those who are awaiting his arrival with Him into a party that is beyond our comprehension, both on this side of eternity and the next. We pray and hope He shows up when we are expecting Him. Even if He is late, we will be ready, the party will be worth it.